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Allowing Our Children to Fail

By Guest Blogger: Nicole Pomeroy

In several chapters of Josh’s book he discusses the concept of Investment in Loss and the idea that he has learned more from his failures than from his successes. One of the most difficult aspects of parenting that I have faced thus far is the challenge of allowing my children to experience disappointment and failure without stepping in to protect them. On an intellectual level, I understand the importance of allowing my kids to experience all that life has to offer, both the good and the bad. I know that allowing them to fail on their own terms builds character. Overcoming obstacles and facing adversity is what helps us grow into hard working, responsible adults that succeed against all odds, knowing that the hard fought journey is the means to the end.

Knowing this is one thing. Doing it is another.

We are hard wired to protect our children at all costs. We want to run to their defense when someone hurts them. We want to stick up for them when life is unjust. We want to kiss their boo boos and make them all better. It’s what we do! And some of this, of course, is necessary and needed. But where do we draw the line? In The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents, Deepak Chopra says, “Innocence is the knowledge that you can guide your children but never control them. You must be open to the person within every child, a person who is bound to be different from you. In innocence this fact can be accepted with a peaceful heart.” So when does guiding become controlling?

I think when we stop parenting from our own places of pain and hurt, from our own experiences and our own failures, we can stop denying our children the right to have these experiences for themselves. How will they learn from their mistakes as we did if we don’t allow them to make any? Maybe we assume that their reaction to a failure would be the same as ours, that it would hurt them the same or cause them the same pain as it did for us. But maybe not. Maybe they’ll handle it better. And maybe we can teach them how.

Perhaps if we shift our focus to teaching our kids how to respond to their mistakes and failures it will result in raising children who know how to bounce back from disappointment, handle failure with grace and accept themselves as they are. We all make mistakes. We all fail sometimes. We have to! It’s what we do with that information that defines how we will face adversity in our lives. So the best thing we can do for them (and ourselves) is to allow our children to see us fail and to witness how we respond to that failure. By learning from those mistakes, making things right and, most importantly, forgiving ourselves. We need to teach them that mistakes shouldn’t be avoided or ignored, but embraced!

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